The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Why Public Engagement?

As citizens and as scholars, we have an interest in today’s debates about public policy, conversations about the state of the world, and imagining a different future. Read more about the Public Engagement Projects' Mission and Vision

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Ezra Markowitz, PEP co-director, co-authored an opinion piece calling for a re-evaluation of how we should discuss crises and catastrophes

Ezra Markowitz, PEP co-director, co-authored an opinion piece calling for a re-evaluation of how we should discuss crises and catastrophes. “Simply put,” he writes, “narratives of catastrophe and crisis can create nasty feedback loops that make it harder to achieve the compromise, hard work and sustained engagement necessary for meaningful action, especially in a deeply divided society.” Markowitz and his co-author provide four ways to tell more effective stories about the challenges facing humanity. Read more at The Washington Post.

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, published an article on the challenges facing high school transgender athletes and how high school sports have become the latest battleground over transgender rights

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, published an article on the challenges facing high school transgender athletes and how high school sports have become the latest battleground over transgender rights. Two states proposed to ban transgender girls – meaning those assigned males at birth but who live and identify as girls – from competing on girls’ interscholastic sports teams. Sharrow explains, “These sex testing policies, also known as gender verification, have long policed the elite women’s category and particularly harm women of color, who have been disproportionately scrutinized.” Read more at The Conversation.

Elizabeth Krause, 2015 PEP Fellow, finds the “threat of xenophobia, a preparedness to quarantine, and the will of solidarity motivated an entire migrant community to take action” during the pandemic in new research

Elizabeth Krause, 2015 PEP Fellow, finds the “threat of xenophobia, a preparedness to quarantine, and the will of solidarity motivated an entire migrant community to take action” during the pandemic in new research. Krause and Bressan argue that the effects of what they discovered “reconfigures dominant ideologies of individualism, open space for collective orientation toward a human economy, and offer potential to alleviate detrimental impacts of pandemics.” Krause & Bressan explain, “The Chinese migrants prioritized health and well-being over business and money. Their collective action of a triple quarantine as a means to prevent the spread of the virus represented a gift to the community at large.” “Not spreading COVID stands as the ultimate gift of solidarity,” they write. “Time will tell to what degree the withering away of xenophobia will endure as a form of reciprocity.” Read more at the News Office.

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, criticizes decisions made by the University of Minnesota to cut three men’s athletic programs, citing budget constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, criticizes decisions made by the University of Minnesota to cut three men’s athletic programs, citing budget constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She writes that the school’s athletic director blaming Title IX for limiting his choices “suggests a less than full commitment to comprehensive gender equity in Gopher athletics.” Sharrow is a Minnesota alumna and former athlete and assistant coach on the school’s rowing team. Read more at StarTribune.

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, is quoted extensively in an article about the benefits of naps when they are taken correctly

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, is quoted extensively in an article about the benefits of naps when they are taken correctly. Spencer explains, “We know in early childhood naps can help emotion processing.  Because that's the observation for little kids: if you keep them from napping, the parent will be like, ‘Oh my god, they're so grumpy. They haven't napped,’ ” Read more at Discover Magazine.

Erica Scharrer, 2017 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article about people scrutinizing the appearance of 17-year old TikTokker and children’s entertainer JoJo Siwa

Erica Scharrer, 2017 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article about people scrutinizing the appearance of 17-year old TikTokker and children’s entertainer JoJo Siwa. Scharrer says that teens often change their styles during their adolescent years because it's a period in which they're “closely tuned in to the ways others may be perceiving them.” It's also normal for teens to feel hesitant when straying from their typical look, she says. Read more at Insider.com

Elizabeth Evans, 2018 PEP Fellow, recommends guidelines to instill public trust and better protect people when using big data to deal with opioid use disorder in a new research study

Elizabeth Evans, 2018 PEP Fellow, recommends guidelines to instill public trust and better protect people when using big data to deal with opioid use disorder in a new research study. Evans wrote, “Efforts informed by big data are saving lives, yielding significant benefits. Uses of big data may also undermine public trust in government and cause other unintended harms.” Read more here: Science Codex, News Medical Life Sciences, News Office release.

Paul Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in an article about whether President Trump’s legal challenges will succeed in changing the outcome of the election

Paul Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in an article about whether President Trump’s legal challenges will succeed in changing the outcome of the election. Collins says the lawsuits were filed for “purely political reasons ...  as a way of delegitimizing the Biden administration and the electoral process itself.” Read more at the Boston Globe and Salon

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, was among women in downtown Northampton reacting to the election of California Sen. Kamala Harris as the nation’s first female, first Black person, and first Asian American elected vice president

Elizabeth Sharrow, 2020 PEP Fellow, was among women in downtown Northampton reacting to the election of California Sen. Kamala Harris as the nation’s first female, first Black person, and first Asian American elected vice president. Sharrow said, “I think there is good reason to believe that the election of Sen. Kamala Harris to the vice presidency is likely to have long-term impacts on how girls — and girls of color, in particular — orient themselves to politics.” Read more at the Daily Hampshire Gazette

M.V. Lee Badgett, PEP Steering Committee Member, is a part of a committee that released a new report calling for more comprehensive data on LGBTQI+ well-being

M.V. Lee Badgett, PEP Steering Committee Member, is a part of a committee that released a new report calling for more comprehensive data on LGBTQI+ well-being. The report, “Understanding the Well-Being of LGBTQI+ Populations,” says the makeup of the LGBTQI+ community has undergone dramatic changes in the past decade. As more young people, women, bisexual people, and racial and ethnic minorities identify as part of the sexual and gender diverse population, research needs to keep pace by better measuring its unique and varied nature. Read more at the UMass News Release

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In appreciation of their generous support, the UMass Public Engagement Project would like to thank the Office of the ProvostUniversity Relations, and the Colleges of Natural SciencesSocial and Behavioral Sciences Humanities and Fine ArtsEngineeringPublic Health and Health Sciences, and Education.  The UMass Public Engagement Project also recognizes and appreciates in-kind contributions and collaborations with the Center for Research on Families and the Institute for Social Science Research